Thursday, August 25, 2011 3:03 PM
Growing up, every boy had a set of green toy army men—their feet mired in a puddle of smooth plastic, their guns perpetually cocked. More sadistic boys might burn off the soldiers’ legs, arms, and faces with a powerful magnifying glass. Other soldiers would lose appendages to the family Labrador. The little green men molded by U.K.-based artist collective Dorothy, however, come prepackaged with their limbs blown off. One of them holds his rifle to his own throat.
Another subversive “toy” looks like a snow globe enclosing the four cooling towers of a nuclear power plant. Instead of enchanting white fluffs of snow floating through the globe when shaken, clumps of black ash rain down upon the industrial landscape. Ominously, Dorothy has dubbed these “No Globes.”
Last holiday season, Dorothy packaged up neat boxes of tree ornaments. But their glinting chrome bulbs weren’t smooth orbs of holiday joy—they were shaped like silver hand grenades. Merry Christmas, kids!
“When work like this incites controversy,” writes art magazine Hi-Fructose of Dorothy, “it’s usually for the way it compresses complex political or societal issues into overly cynical or simplistic satire. Dorothy clearly isn’t afraid to offend, but the group never loses its sense of mischievous wit either.”
“Dorothy wants to make us laugh,” Hi-Fructose concludes, “but when the message gets heavier, the group knows only too well that the joke won’t last.”
“Casualties of War”
Images courtesy of Dorothy Collective.
Wednesday, November 03, 2010 3:20 PM
Noting that consuming fake news through a website or newspaper is just not enough for some people, The Onion has decided to indulge cynical news junkies by branching out into television. The Onion News Network’s half-hour long Factzone is set to debut in early 2011 on the Independent Film Channel, where it will engage in its customary antics and spoofs in a setting similar to that of Anderson Cooper 360.
Paste picked up on the story and posted part of the show’s press release on their website:
With more attack satellites than any other network and nearly a million surveillance cameras in cities, homes, and high-level government offices across the nation, ONN’s FactZone is the nation’s number-one source for breaking news, screaming political arguments, and vital information on missing teenage Caucasian girls.
William Grahm, an executive producer of The Onion News Network, said during a phone interview with David Itzkoff of TheNew York Times, “It just seems to us CNN, Fox News and MSNBC are already doing such great comedy out there, without a whole lot of competition….We thought it was about time that someone really gave them a run for their money.”
Is The Onion just capitalizing on the success of fellow sovereigns of satire Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert? It doesn’t really matter, as the media world could probably do with more levity. However, while The Daily Show and The Colbert Report appear on basic cable, Factzone will be less accessible to prospective viewers; unless you have the super-mega-grand cable package that includes IFC, you're out of luck.
Source: Paste, The New York Times
Wednesday, June 17, 2009 11:13 AM
Just in time for summer, The Believer recommends eleven essential nonexistent books for your reading lists. Perfect for anyone who’s looking to either not read or imagine to read. Here are a few hilarious examples with descriptions:
1) Fibre Strands of Luxurious Abrasion (nonfiction), by Simon Gaspeth. “Surfaces—cheap carpet, a linoleum countertop after bread has been sliced, wet Astroturf—are what interest Gaspeth, an essayist and lecturer in material culture at King’s College London.”
2) Whole Hog (nonfiction), by Arthur Allens. The author “shows his willingness to stare his meat in the face as he follows a single Iowa pig from his first day’s suckling, through his corn-dosed adolescence, to his ultimate fate: divvied up among Korean wholesalers, makers of artisanal bacon, and an agribusiness conglomerate that serves what’s left of him back to his brethren.”
3) The Men Who Pour Cement (fiction), by Kimball MacAleese. “MacAleese is the great also-ran of the twentieth-century American letters, behind his contemporaries Faulkner, Fitzgerald, and Hemingway—whom he once challenged to ‘write about your own g-damn country, and let the matadors and spaghetti-eaters write about theirs.’”
4) Workshop (fiction), by Nick Lowey. “MFA students writing—and failing to write—form the subject of Lowey’s debut...Lowey displays an enviable judiciousness and a keen eye: a box of cheap wine is described as ‘a store-brand Lethe, a vermillion river of solace and forgetting.’”
Source: The Believer
Monday, April 06, 2009 2:46 PM
What to do with policy recommendations “too crazy conservative” for even the Heritage Foundation? The New Republic has an idea: Heritage Foundation RAW, where members feast on meat-and-potatoes breakfasts while advancing an “outlandishly reactionary platform in a room so smoke-filled it is said that members can only identify each other by their hacking coughs.”
HFRAW is just one organization brought to life in “The Lesser Known Think Tanks of Washington,” a satirical jaunt for politics geeks penned by screenwriter Yoni Brenner. Also of note: the Council for Innovative Alliance (“A liberal, international-minded body dedicated to matching countries that have no political disputes or shared interests but just might get along”) and the Def Jam Think Tank (“credited for introducing the adjective ‘weezy’ to Beltway parlance”).
Source: The New Republic
Thursday, November 13, 2008 12:37 PM
After 9/11 we heard a lot about the death of irony, but after an initial period of mourning, humor prevailed and even thrived in the troubled early aughts.
But with the departure of the president who gave political satire its all-time easiest target, and the arrival of an unflappable and extremely popular president-elect, will practitioners of political satire run out of fodder?
Of course not. The Daily Show’s ascendancy coincided with Bush’s increasingly disastrous presidency, but Jon Stewart & Co. won’t suddenly be irrelevant just because Bush is. “Assuming the Daily Show can only be funny under someone like George W. Bush gives far too much credit to the outgoing President and is obscenely insulting to the writers of the Daily Show,” writes Matt Tobey on Comedy Central’s blog. “As if there wasn't plenty of failed Bush-based humor from shittier sources than the Daily Show.”
Meanwhile, the South Park boys pulled an all-nighter after the election to complete their extremely timely Wednesday broadcast, in which overzealous acolytes of Barack Obama see his victory as license to riot drunkenly in the streets, and Obama’s campaign team shows its true colors as an upscale band of jewel thieves a la Ocean’s Eleven.
These comedy institutions are bellwethers of the general categories into which Obama Humor will fall, at least for now: Poking fun at the extreme fervor of Obama’s supporters, and pointing up the absurd paranoia of Obama’s opposition (much like the New Yorker did all those months ago.)
The reliable Onion covers those satirical bases and more, with headlines like “International Con Man Barack Obama Leaves U.S. With $85 Million In Campaign Fundraising” and “Black Man Given Nation’s Worst Job”.
There’s also the hilarious animated video below, from Get Your War On creator David Rees, making the rounds. (Consider it a sequel to the New Yorker cover.)
And when Obama inevitably falls short of the astronomical expectations set for him, satirists will pounce. The Daily Show’s John Hodgman told Politico, “As much as the show is fake news, its soul is very sincere, borne of a desire that everyone shares, that we don’t want to be lied to. If there is a whiff of insincerity [Obama] will be taken to task.”
Friday, October 31, 2008 12:31 PM
In the spirit of literary cleverness (and maybe Halloween masquerade) Bookninja recently held a book cover redesign contest. Participants were asked to fire up Photoshop and remix the covers of popular books; in doing so, many of them have altered the book’s entire theme, genre, plot, and more.
For example, Thomas Pynchon’s Vineland becomes a wine-making companion. To the Lighthouse is a pulpy maritime adventure novel. And A Confederacy of Dunces makes the inevitable Sarah Palin joke.
But my favorite is probably The Road, by Cormac McCarthy, rebranded as a parenting manual for fathers:
On a somewhat related note, Minnesota Reads found an odd little game challenging you to literally judge a book by its cover: Guess its average Amazon star-ranking based solely on the cover image. It’s surprisingly difficult.
Bookworms play the nerdiest games.
Tuesday, October 07, 2008 12:18 PM
By the time Tina Fey emerged onto the cultural landscape in 2000 as an anchor on Saturday Night Live’s “Weekend Update” segment, the Second City alum was already the show’s head writer, quietly shepherding the comedy institution into its late-'90s renaissance and noticeably improving its ratio of funny-to-bad sketches.
Her star continued to rise with the razor-sharp satirical sitcom 30 Rock, which premiered in 2006 and solidified her status as the embodiment of geek chic in an entertainment climate where brainy, funny women are tragically undervalued. Fey has carved out a career in which she accomplishes the seemingly impossible feat of injecting savvy cultural and political commentary into mass entertainment, with her cerebral, rapid-fire monologues on “Update” and then with the surprisingly subversive 30 Rock.
But no one could have predicted Fey’s next act until August 29 of this year, when John McCain announced Sarah Palin as his running mate. The world pounced on the striking similarity between Fey and the VP candidate, and Fey didn’t disappoint. She has returned to Saturday Night Live to lampoon the candidate’s disastrous interviews with Katie Couric and her debate against Joe Biden, and delivered a speech with Hillary Clinton as played by longtime collaborator Amy Poehler. For her part, Palin has joked about honing her own Tina Fey impression, telling reporters she dressed as Fey for Halloween. (When? Last year?)
This week, Fey signed a multimillion-dollar book deal for a collection of humorous essays in the vein of Woody Allen and Nora Ephron. She appears undaunted by relative missteps like the box-office flop Baby Mama or her shilling for American Express, and now wields enormous cultural influence—as writer, performer, and human barometer of that uniquely American nexus of politics and entertainment.
Fey doesn’t necessarily relish her newfound cultural clout, however. As successful as her Sarah Palin gig has been, Fey hopes it doesn’t last long: “I want to be done playing this lady November 5,” she said backstage at this year’s Emmys. “So if anyone could help me be done playing this lady November 5, that would be good for me.”
We’ll do our best, Tina.
Image by David Shankbone, licensed by Creative Commons.
Tuesday, September 16, 2008 8:45 AM
Hosted by Sarah Haskins with sardonic, faux-naïve enthusiasm, “Target: Women” is the standout segment of Current TV’s online news show infoMania.
In each episode, Haskins sets her sights on an especially ridiculous media trend targeting the young female demographic, satirizing the insipid pop-culture trends that nevertheless remain infuriatingly popular, such as reality shows about weddings (“They put the ‘we’ in ‘wedding’ and the ‘end’ in ‘feminism’”), birth control ads (“It’s Yaz, the pill that stops all those symptoms, so you can do the women things you love, like run, wear big earrings, hug friends, and have a cool, non-specific media job”), and chick flicks (“She’s in for a surprise, when: unlikely suitor / high-concept hijinks / unnecessary obstacle / true love / happy ending!”).
Haskins got an easy target when Sarah Palin became John McCain’s VP pick. In her Palin segment, Haskins slyly celebrates that mythical demographic of Hillary supporters who the McCain campaign cynically believes will vote for Palin simply because she’s a woman. Haskins calls them P.A.N.T.H.E.R.s—joining other jungle-cat demographics like PUMAs and Cougars—whose acronym stands for “Proud American Needing Token Hillary Estrogen Replacement.”
Like the Daily Show or the Onion, “Target: Women” is smart satire disguised as hilarious pop-culture commentary. I hope that Sarah Haskins keeps it up for as long as the media cynically exploits her demographic—which is to say, forever.
Wednesday, September 10, 2008 9:24 AM
We all know how much fun it is to gather around a television with like-minded friends and shout snide things at the unpalatable speeches being broadcast. Now imagine doing that in a theater filled with 300 drunk liberals.
That’s precisely what I did last Thursday, at the tail end of Daily Show creator Lizz Winstead’s multimedia satire, Shoot the Messenger. The show holds weekly performances in New York City, where Winstead and her ensemble spoof the week’s headlines during a parodic morning news show called Wake Up World (“America’s only 6-hour morning show!”)
But last week, in dubious honor of the RNC, Winstead’s troupe brought their show to her native Minneapolis for three nights at the Parkway Theater. Each evening’s events went beyond mere theater to include live feeds from the RNC and musical performances from revered protest singer Billy Bragg and local legends Dan Wilson, Jim Walsh, and Grant Hart.
Before the show, the Parkway’s seats were mostly full of chatty people munching popcorn as the onstage screen showed eminently believable ads for the “24/7 Infonewsment Network’s” fake shows, such as Poll Dancing with sexy anchorwoman Emily Rackcheck and MedicAsian with Dr. Vijay Jay.
Winstead and her co-star Baron Vaughn starred as Wake Up World’s chipper, clueless hosts Hope Jean Paul and Davis Miles. Hope Jean Paul is, like her creator, from the Twin Cities area: “I’m originally from Coon Rapids,” she chirped, to which Vaughn (who is African American) replied, “Wow! Sounds like my kind of place!” Naughty laughter erupted and Winstead replied, “Now, Davis, try not to be offended by the name, just because it contains the word Rapids.”
That joke set the tone for the show, whose mix of absurdity and topical satire has made Winstead’s more famous brainchild the Daily Show a media phenomenon for over a decade. Wake Up World, even more so than the Daily Show or its cousin the Colbert Report, is an acerbic and overtly partisan takedown of our leaders’ hypocrisies and the 24-hour news cycle’s vapid excesses.
In true morning-show form, Winstead and Vaughn hyped insipid segments like Lumpy the Cancer-Sniffing Dog, who they promised would find the one lucky audience member with a malignant tumor. A pro–big oil energy “expert” was brought in to discuss his new book The Town Pump: Alternatives to Alternative Energy. And a member of private security contractor Blackwater sat down with the hosts to discuss his new miracle fitness regimen: “Extreme Waterboard Abs.”
Pulchritudinous newsgal Emily Rackcheck delivered hourly news updates in a low-cut sweater and miniskirt. Bloviators Hunter Carlsbad (wearing a bowtie) and Daniels Midland (host of the Complication Room) shouted at each other during a Crossfire-style segment touted as “a debate between both sides of the political spectrum: the Far Right and the Right of Center!”
Winstead also tailored the show to the region with pre-taped biographical puff pieces on Laurie Coleman and Michelle Bachman subtitled “Behind the Taut Canvas.” There were ads for “a 31-part investigative series” called White in America and a gauzy video appeal from Sarah Silverman for charitable donations to private contracting firms.
After Wake Up World concluded, the evening shifted gears for its second segment, where Winstead reappeared as herself and sat down with liberal talk-radio host Ed Schultz to discuss the RNC—specifically Palin, whose fur-coat photo Winstead captioned “Wasilla DeVille.” Schultz was witty and affable, assuring us that McCain’s campaign would buckle under the weight of its own hypocrisy: “Look, everything’s going to be fine. And if it’s not, then we get another vice president who might shoot someone in the face!”
This marathon mix of political discourse, satire, and campy theatre was only a prelude, however, for the evening’s main event: a massive group viewing of John McCain’s speech. The audience, now well-lubricated and ready to laugh not so much with satirical glee as incredulous derision, filed back into the theater as McCain’s hagiographic video was playing on the giant screen, which had been tuned to MSNBC’s live feed from the convention.
As the man himself took the stage, the theater audience erupted with boos and squeals. The people around me gladly obeyed the rules of a drinking game Winstead had announced earlier: that we hoist our glasses every time the word maverick was used. Genuine cheers burst forth when MSNBC’s cameras zoomed in on the IVAW and Code Pink protestors who had infiltrated the hall.
As the speech dragged on and John McCain’s smiling rictus became increasingly creepy, the Parkway crowd got rowdier and my convention fatigue peaked. Around the moment when the last poorly programmed image appeared behind the penis-shaped stage, I fled the theater for some fresh air. When I went back inside a few minutes later, I encountered a completely different scene which cleared my head, the perfect antidote to the televised nightmare we’d just seen: Dan Wilson was playing his ubiquitous and charming hit single “Closing Time” to a much smaller crowd gathered near the front of the theater, kicking off one of Jim Walsh’s famous Hootenannies. Then Grant Hart took the stage, and the aging avatars of the Minneapolis counterculture settled further into their seats to watch their heroes perform, resting after a long evening—and week—of politicized sensory overload.
Monday, August 18, 2008 1:38 PM
Some strains of environmentalism seem a little too much like fads, rife with inconsistency and hypocrisy. In “Greener Than Thou,” from the July issue of Boston magazine, Joe Keohane sets his crosshairs on his city’s sillier green initiatives and the smug satisfaction accompanying them. It’s a piece worth reading not just for his commenary on Boston’s environmental concerns, but for the wry manner in which he roasts his self-righteous subjects.
The tone is playful at first: Keohane gets off some irreverent shots at the culture surrounding an all-raw vegan restaurant—“all around me people talked earnestly about what they were eating, save for a troika of lesbians who talked about lesbianism for a while”—and pokes fun at the mayor’s repurposing of the city’s nickname, from Beantown to Greentown.
But Keohane also makes a good point about the guilt trips and competition that can infect green initiatives, with people striving to outdo each other’s ostentatious displays of eco-consciousness, then chastising those who fall short. “This is a city widely known (and reviled) for possessing an unapologetically liberal worldview generously varnished with moral vanity, so it stands to reason that an issue like this—which hits on politics, the environment, and social justice, and allows us to brag—would be like catnip here.”
Keohane also draws a clever analogy between the Puritans and this wave of environmental zealots hectoring their fellow citizens into Total Green Compliance. Faced with such a shrill brand of environmentalism, it’s tempting to throw one’s hands up in defeat and toss that recyclable bottle into the trash. Which brings us to Keohane’s final words of advice: “Do what’s right, go green to the fullest, sure, but at least try to avoid doing it in a way that makes people hate you and, out of sheer spite, do the opposite of what you do.”
Image by Paul Keleher, licensed by Creative Commons.
Tuesday, February 26, 2008 4:51 PM
Have you spent hours mulling the future of Texan literary culture? Well, stop right there, buckaroo, and read Don Graham’s satirically speculative piece in the Texas Observer. Launching from the run-of-the-mill idea that it will someday be the year 2043, Graham’s essay creatively details the future repeat successes of Texas luminaries such as Larry McMurtry, who, in 2043, is unable to cease writing novels.
Mocking everything from politically correct grammar (imagining “ze” as a popular, gender-neutral pronoun) to a general lack of wisdom (“It wasn’t clear what anybody learned about anything anymore from any source anywhere”), Graham imagines a future for Texas culture that magnifies nothing so much as current peccadilloes, for instance anti-ecofriendly sentiments:
The only automobiles permitted in the city were for political dignitaries and those wealthy enough to participate in Nostalgia Day, when they drove vintage automobiles around and burned up lots of ethanol, running over a cyclist or two to get in touch with their old feelings.
May Texas always seem a real hoot.
, licensed under Creative Commons.
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